11 MILLION DOLLARS!!
That was the cost of identity theft to Canadians In 2006.
Unfortunately, so many of us have either experienced some form of identity theft or knows someone who has had some of their personal information stolen. Identity theft is being called the major crime of the information age, and is the fastest growing crime in Canada and the US. I recently read a booklet called “Fact or Fraud: the truth about scams and fraud in Manitoba
”. This useful document was written in partnership with a number of very credible organizations including the RCMP, Age and Opportunity Inc, Consumers’ Bureau, The Manitoba Securities Commission, and The Consumers’ Association of Canada. Much of the information I’m passing on in this blog has come from this informative booklet, from the experiences of colleagues and friends, and from a number of educational sources.
There’s so much useful information out there and yet, so many of us are ignorant of the real dangers that lurk in the most innocent seeming places.
First, let’s ask ourselves why someone would want to steal our identity?
Identity theft refers to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. Identity theft can also happen when someone commits a crime or fraud while pretending to be you. Typically, there is financial gain involved. But we should also recognize that identity theft is often used to: obtain illegal entry to Canada or another country; hide one’s true identity (running from the law, involved in terrorist activities); participating in criminal activity such as drug trafficking or money laundering. If you are someone who has access to restricted areas or confidential information, stealing your identity can provide an entrée into confidential and private information.
Your information can be used in so many ways that are harmful to you. An identity thief can open a bank account in your name or transfer money out of your bank account, can redirect your mail, rent equipment or take accommodations in your name, purchase expensive goods, even major property.
You could be responsible for bills and bad cheques that you may not be aware of, which could destroy your credit rating. Or worse, you could find yourself in trouble with the law.
In my next posting, I’ll talk about how you can find out whether your personal information can be taken and what signs to look for to know whether or not you need to take steps to re-establish your ownership of your own identity.